Following the summit meeting, the Quad strategy as well as the broader India-Japan partnership is firmly on track
The 14th India-Japan Summit was held over the weekend of March 19-20. It was the first physical summit since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s important visit to Japan in 2018.
The 2019 summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scheduled for Guwahati was canceled due to protests paralyzing the city; in 2020, the next summit was scheduled virtually but became a lame duck as Abe stepped down days before this one.
In 2021, the online summit took place between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. With the visit of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indo-Japanese relations are physically back on track. For Kishida, this was his first major bilateral visit abroad and, as full-time prime minister, it was significant. This was an important occasion for a new Kishida-Modi report.
This summit marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Japan and the 75th anniversary of India’s independence
The summit allowed for a rejuvenation of the mothballed plans. At the 2019 Guwahati summit, a major push from Japan into northeast India was expected. At the 2020 summit, Abe foresaw a strategic investment plan for India, which would have established new supply chains, technology transfers, greater FDI and overcoming India’s absence. of RCEP. As these summits did not take place, their agenda was postponed to 14and Mountain peak.
The most important of these is the influx of Japanese FDI which will continue to flow to India. The target set in 2014 for 3,400 billion yen (about 28 billion dollars) has been achieved. It took nearly seven years to do so. Now there is a new target of 5 trillion yen (about $42 billion) to be achieved over the next five years.
Indeed, this implies that 15 trillion yen of Japanese public and private investment is expected in India over the next five years. This significantly raises the stakes since in the past, Japanese investment in India has averaged around $2-2.5 billion per year. This is a leap forward regardless of the yen-dollar exchange rate, in addition to the 4 billion dollars of annual ODA (official development assistance).
Abe’s plan for strategic investments in India is reinvigorated in a shorter period of time. This is more suitable for Japanese companies. Two years ago they were in the middle of the pandemic and looking to survive rather than expand.
The second important point to remember is that the development of northeast India continues. The India Japan Act East Forum, established in 2017, was five years behind schedule. These plans include strengthening the bamboo value chain and undertaking sustainability initiatives for the North East. ODA support for North East road connectivity projects agreed.
Support for medical education in Assam is part of sustainable development initiatives which include connectivity, healthcare, renewable energy and will support links between North East India and South East Asia, especially Myanmar and Thailand, where the trilateral highway is under development. Japanese support for road projects in the northeast is an important link to the trilateral highway and to create an economic hinterland that can become a source of production for more exports and access to neighboring countries in the ASEAN.
The third important point to remember is the commonality of views on the international situation. India and Japan share a common commitment to the rules-based international order, the Charter of the United Nations and mutually agreed agreements. This has always been the model for countering China’s expansion, especially in the South and East China Seas as well as with India in Ladakh. This was reiterated, to pursue the same principles that are applied to the crisis in Ukraine.
Although Japan supported the US-led vote at the UN against Russia, India consistently abstained; their opinions are congruent. They want the fighting to stop, humanitarian access to be achieved, diplomatic solutions to be found and do not want borders to be changed by force. The way of saying it in public for the two is different. While Kishida was open in his remarks to the press, India made it clear in the press interaction undertaken by the Foreign Minister.
So, although there have been speculations that India and Japan differ on Ukraine, in reality it is only the process, while the substance is much the same.
The continued support of ODA through their yen loan programs to support development in India is important. Japan, with between 3.5 and 4 billion dollars a year, is India’s largest bilateral donor. This time, Rs 20,400 crore for connectivity, water supply and sanitation, horticulture, healthcare and biodiversity projects in various states have been signed.
Dedicated Freight Corridor Phase 2, Bengaluru Water Supply Project, Uttarakhand Horticulture Development Project, Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Project and Chennai Metro Phase 2 are among the areas in which Japan would continue to support India, besides the flagship high-speed rail project. between Ahmedabad and Bombay.
The India-Japan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership Roadmap, in effect since November 2021, addresses the issues that Japanese companies face in India, but offers solutions to their problems through logistics working groups and textiles and cooperation on MSME and supply chain issues. This will help Indian and Japanese companies to become better partners and leverage the India-Japan-Australia supply chain resilience initiative.
The partnership for a free and open Indo-Pacific, underpinned by inclusiveness and a rules-based order, would be further bolstered by the upcoming holding of the second Two Plus Two Meeting of Japanese and Indian Foreign and Defense Ministers to follow up on their 2019 meeting. While normal exercises will continue, Japan participated for the first time in Milan and work towards the first exercises between the air forces is underway.
Given Japan’s emphasis on technology development, as part of its expanding defense budget, collaboration on cybersecurity, unmanned ground vehicles and robotics is underway. With respect to the Indo-Pacific, there was ongoing agreement on FoIP and how it could be linked to IPOI. Japan was one of the first to respond and is the main partner for its connectivity pillar.
Defense and security ties between India and Japan have grown stronger in recent years and mutual engagement is more comfortable. It is important to note that the two countries have similar views but may express themselves differently at the UN. When India’s tenure on the UN Security Council ends in 2023, India will have backed Japan for the Asian seat for the next two years. This will allow the continuity of their coordinated efforts.
Another takeaway is that the India-Japan digital partnership is going smoothly, for digital transformation and opportunities for Indian IT professionals as well as collaboration in the field of AI, IoT and other emerging technologies. The India-Japan fund of funds has already invested nearly $10 billion in India and it is expected to grow.
Another important point to remember is that although Africa no longer finds any mention of India and Japan collaborating, the two have agreed to continue ongoing projects in Bangladesh and look forward to exploring expansion. development projects in ASEAN, Pacific Island countries and other places where the Quad focuses on.
The 14th Summit brought Indo-Japanese relations back to center stage, out of the fog of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. The Quad strategy as well as the broader India-Japan partnership is firmly on track.
The writer is the former ambassador to ASEAN. The opinions expressed are personal.